Counting the cost of climate change

Counting the cost of climate change

27 January 2014

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Australia — BOTH Melbourne and Adelaide have recently recorded four consecutive days of temperatures above 41 degrees which breaks all previous records and 46 Celsius (114.8 Fahrenheit) was recorded at Avalon.

The Grampians bushfires resulted in 32 homes destroyed and the Blue Mountains fires in November saw more than 200 homes lost.

Both communities are anxious for tourists to return quickly to help their local economies.

The Royal Commission into the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009 reported 173 lives lost, over 500 severe injuries and $4.4 billion in damages.

And this only relates to immediate costs.

Long-term costs include ongoing physical, psychological or emotional trauma and the costs of counselling and assistance to families, victims and survivors.

Loss of livelihoods, jobs, tourism, flora and fauna, environmental costs to water catchment and greenhouse emissions remain unquantified.

High air temperatures as we just experienced, are a primary reason for fire outbreaks, and similar extreme weather events during our summers will soon become ‘the norm’ as predicted by eminent Climate scientists.

Will Steffen, head of the Australian Climate Council, said, regarding high temperature extreme weather events of the future, “We better get used to it”.

In April 2010, Kevin Rudd, then Prime Minister, said, “Climate change is the biggest moral challenge of our lifetime” but then shied away from strong, decisive leadership.

Climate scientists world-wide confirm that the warming of our planet is at least 90 per cent due to the non-sustainable activities of man, and largely due to our burning of fossil fuels at an increasing and alarming rate.

So, as Will Steffen says, “Get used to it”.

Sadly, predictions are for more bushfires of increasing magnitude; hence more loss of life, more trauma, more damage to property and the environment, all at a huge financial cost.
With the cost of the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires at $4.4 billion, we can expect over the next few years ongoing costs far exceeding this figure.

The problem of a warming planet will have devastating consequences for many and add significantly and progressively to our National budget.

The connection between extreme air temperatures and bushfire outbreaks is clear, as is the correlation between extreme air temperatures and the burning of fossil fuels.

Even the rush on the purchase and operation of air-conditioners during extreme temperatures caused power over-loads and more coal burning, further exacerbating the problem of escalating global air temperatures.

How do we break this destructive cycle before it spirals out of control?

Tony Abbott recently said, “This is the year more than ever, I hope Australians will give it a go”.

Well the time is long over-due for us all to unite in the common purpose of arresting global warming and overcoming “the biggest moral challenge of our lifetime”, and so Mr Abbott, “This is the year that we too, more than ever, hope politicians will show real leadership, and give it a go”.

There is a lot at stake and a lot to lose.

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